Driving home in the crepuscular light, as I approach Woodbury Lake the sky shimmers violet, dusk refracted through snow squalls. I’m mesmerized by the voices on Vermont Public Radio — I cede two minutes to the gentlewoman from Wherever State — and I don’t turn off the radio as I head into the squalls.
Almost immediately I can’t see the edges of the road. I’m not even sure where to turn off, so I keep driving. Somewhere ahead, in that squall or on the other side of it, my daughters are waiting. As I drive, I keep hoping they’re not driving, that they’re safely home, baking muffins and playing music.
It’s not just me driving slowly — we’re all creeping along. The UPS truck has marooned in a driveway, flashers blinking. That last steep, curving downhill, through the Woodbury gulf, seems to take forever. At the end, there’s just snow, snow, snow. At home, my daughters have the lights on, the Christmas tree sparkling through the window. I gather my backpack and head up the path.
Whirling snow and darkness: that winter mystery.
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
“The Thing Is” by Ellen Bass